July 20, 2019
THANKS to the hard work of Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, and with a little luck, the Philippines may very well be the host country for two of the world’s most important tourism conferences in time for the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s landing in Cebu.
Under Puyat’s direction, the DoT has bid to host the annual World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit and the biannual United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly, both in 2021. The date is auspicious, because it marks the quincentennial of Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines, which was part of the first known voyage around the world.
The WTTC is a group comprising tourism enterprises and advocates from the private sector. Its Global Summit, held every year in April, draws from 1,500 to 1,700 delegates from around the world. The summit this year was held in Seville, Spain, and will move on to Puerto Rico in 2020.
The UNWTO is an agency of the United Nations dedicated to promoting “sustainable, inclusive and accessible” tourism throughout the world. The organization currently has 158 member-states, six associate members and more than 500 affiliate members, including tourism promotion and policy groups, educational institutions and major tourism industry groups. Its General Assembly is held every two years; this year’s venue will be St. Petersburg, Russia, where the members will choose the host country of the next General Assembly to be held in 2021.
Obviously we should support the Philippines’ bid to host these two important conferences under any circumstances as a matter of patriotic sentiment, and also because the Philippines is, indeed, the best location for them.
From a commercial point of view, the Philippines’ profile as a tourist destination has expanded tremendously over recent years and continues to do so under the DoT’s current leadership. Visitor arrivals have steadily increased and are presently at record levels. High-profile sustainability efforts, such as the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay’s shoreline, have also helped to boost the country’s good reputation.
In terms of policy, the Philippines is exerting greater influence than ever before, particularly in the UNWTO. As Secretary Puyat explained to us, “(The Philippines’) membership in the UNWTO’s Committee on Tourism and Sustainability, and in the Committee on Statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account, raises the nation’s profile as one whose tourism sector is intent on building an industry that benefits not just our people today, but also for future generations.”
Given our country’s remarkable biodiversity, the sensitivity of our environment to climate change and the country’s economic profile as a rapidly growing economy, we believe that the Philippines’ voice in these important policymaking bodies is valuable, not just for this country’s own sake, but also for the insights we can share with the world.
This perspective is evidently shared by the Philippines’ peers as well. Both the UNWTO Committee on Asia and the Pacific (CAP) and the UNWTO Committee on South Asia (CSA) have offered their endorsement of the Philippines’ bid to host the 2021 UNWTO General Assembly.
We hope that the rest of the world’s tourism community will also recognize the Philippines’ strengths and the value we can add to this important sector, enough to honor our bid to host these important meetings. We urge the government and the public to give the DoT’s efforts their full support — that we shall all, as a nation, demonstrate our continuing commitment to sustainable tourism through sound policies, respect for the environment and extending our warm Filipino brand of hospitality as we welcome visitors from the rest of the world.
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